DADU/SEHWAN SHARIF: More than 70 people including women and children were martyred and over 100 sustained critical injuries in a suicide attack at the shrine of Sufi Saint Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan Sharif on Thursday.
Thousands of devotees from across the country arrive at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar every Thursday. The powerful blast took place inside the premises of the shrine as a dhamaal was taking place, with a large number of women and children said to be among the casualties. The condition of several devotees is critical, there are fears that death toll could rise further.
The Assistant Superintendent of Police in Sehwan said a suicide bomber entered the shrine through its Golden gate. The attacker blew himself up after throwing a grenade, which failed to explode, he said.
Provincial Health Minister Sikandar Mandhro told media that the blast occurred during ‘Dhamaal’ expressing fear that death toll can increase as the shrine is visited daily by hundreds.
Police and security forces cordoned off the area soon after the blast. Police also arrested at least two suspects from the blast site.
Revenge will be swift: Army Chief
Soon after the blast, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa directed that immediate assistance be provided to civil authorities. Army contingents were dispatched along with medical personnel. Combined Military Hospital Hyderabad was also been alerted to receive casualties.
The army chief also appealed the nation to remain calm, ‘Your security forces shall not allow hostile powers to succeed. We stand for our nation,’ said General Bajwa.
Inter-Services Public Relations quoted the Army Chief of saying as ‘Each drop of nation’s blood shall be revenged and revenged immediately. No more restraint for anyone.’
Attacks being executed from sanctuaries in Afghanistan: ISPR
A Pakistan Air Force (PAF) C-130 aircraft was tasked to airlift the injured from Nawabshah airport, while a navy helicopter was set aside to airlift the injured from Sehwan and its surrounding areas, said the Inter-Services Public Relations.
The ISPR also added that the armed forces have placed all required resources to facilitate the rescue effort. Pakistan Army and Rangers are also assisting with rescue efforts at the site. The armed forces media wing said the recent terror attacks in the country are being executed on directions of hostile powers from sanctuaries in Afghanistan, and ‘we will defend and respond’.
Attack on shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar represents an attack on progressive Pakistan: PM
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the suicide attack on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Shrine.
‘The attack on the shrines of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar represents an attack on the progressive, inclusive future of Pakistan; one where every man women and child is entitled to life, liberty and property in the pursuit of happiness no matter their religion,’ a statement by PM Sharif said.
‘An attack on one of us is an attack on all,’ he said. ‘The Sufi people predate Pakistan, and formed an important part in the struggle for its formation.
‘An attack on them is a direct threat to Jinnah’s Pakistan and will be dealt as such,’ the PM was quoted as saying in the statement.
Condemnations pour in:
President Mamnoon Hussain, Sindh Governor Mohammad Zubair, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah, former president Asif Ali Zardari, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan and other prominent politicians also strongly condemned the blast at Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine.
Resurgence in terror attacks:
There has been resurgence in terror attacks in the country in the past week. On Feb 15, a suicide bomber struck in Mohmand, killing three personnel of the Khasadar force and five civilians.
The same day, a suicide bomber rammed his motorcycle into a vehicle carrying judges in Peshawar’s Hayatabad Phase 5 area, killing the driver and injuring its four other occupants.
On Feb 13, a suicide bomber had struck a protest on Lahore’s Charing Cross interchange, killing 13 and injuring 85. The attack had happened right outside the gates of Punjab’s Provincial Assembly.
On the same day, two personnel of Balochistan’s bomb disposal squad were killed as they attempted to defuse an explosive device planted under the Sariab Road Bridge in Quetta, the provincial capital.
The last attack on a shrine of a Sufi mystic took place on November 12, 2016, when a suicide bomber struck the shrine of Shah Norani in the Khuzdar district of Balochistan, where at least 52 people were killed and 102 were injured.
The explosion had also taken place at a spot inside the Shah Noorani shrine where the dhamaal was being performed. At the time of the blast, there were at least 500 people gathered at the spot to observe the ritual.